Programmed for sin?

This coming week in the United States millions of people will witness a full solar eclipse. In many traditions a solar eclipse is considered a bad omen for the world. To this day in some parts of the world people do not eat food cooked during an eclipse for fear that evil spirits attach themselves to the food during an eclipse. In other places, women and children are encouraged to stay indoors so as not to be affected by the feared ill effects of an eclipse.

Concerning an eclipse, the Talmud says: ‘When the luminaries are stricken, it is an ill omen for the world. To what can we compare this? To a king of flesh and blood who prepared a feast for his servants and set a lantern to illuminate the hall. But then he became angry with them and said to his servant: “Take the lantern from before them and seat them in darkness.” ‘

Now this is quite difficult to understand. We know that the sages of the Talmud were quite proficient in astronomy because of the responsibility to calculate the Jewish calendar, which is based on the movement of the Moon and stars. Surely they must have known that an eclipse is a predictable occurrence that does not happen at random. So how could they lay claim that an eclipse is a sign that G-d is angry with us and therefore it is an ill omen for the world?

The Talmud is actually telling us that when G-d hides the sun from us during an eclipse, plunging us into the physical darkness, it is His way of letting us know that it is a time when people are more disposed towards improper behaviour. The eclipse is merely a reflection of this spiritual darkness.

So on Tuesday, should we hide in fear of the evil around us? Or should we use this knowledge that we are more inclined towards the wrong things on this day as an excuse to fulfil our whims?

Neither. Because we always have free choice to be in control of our behaviour, and we always have the power to overcome the evil influences around us. That’s why the Torah tells us not to fear the signs in the Heavens. Because when we focus on doing good, nothing around us can affect us.

The same is with all things in our lives. We should never say, “Oh, if I would have been born here or there then I would be different, but G-d set me up so I ended up the way I am.” Even when there is darkness all around us we always have the ability to overcome it and lead truly upright, meaningful and accomplishing lives.

Let’s not be like those who cower in the closet during an eclipse. Let’s be there to confront, and not hide from the eclipse in our own personal life.

From the wisdom of the Rebbe. LK”S V.15 Parshat Bereishit 2